Dempsey: North Korea 'Somewhat Predictable' in Provocation

U.S. Army officials said a war with North Korea would leave the U.S. extended without Reserve support. (U.S. Army photo)

ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT – North Korea is "somewhat predictable" in its provocation during the annual military exercises held between the United States and South Korea, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said March 24.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said the exercises are very important to ensure there is a "credible deterrent against provocation" by North Korea.

"Besides the deterrent, [the exercises ensure] that we're also prepared with our military capabilities should [North Korea] do more than just provoke," Dempsey said.

Dempsey, who spoke in an interview aboard his aircraft as he traveled to Japan and South Korea, said the “exercises are a critical part of our relationship and we do them with a very steady drumbeat, the same time every year."

The joint operations are defensive in nature, and each year North Korea reacts, he said.

"They react in a provocative fashion, which of course has become somewhat predictable and reinforces the need for us to have these meetings and exercises with the frequency that we do," he said.

Exercises Highlight Allies’ Collaboration

The exercises are held to "rekindle" tactics, techniques and procedures, to ensure the United States can operate collaboratively with its own joint force and with its South Korean allies, the general noted.

The Key Resolve exercise took place the first two weeks of March. It involved computer simulations hosted at various sites across South Korea and the United States.

This year’s Foal Eagle exercise, running March 2 to April 24, is a series of joint and combined field training exercises spanning ground, air, naval, and special operations.

Dempsey to Meet With Japanese, South Korean Leaders

Japan and South Korea are key allies to the United States, the chairman said.

"I'll get a chance to visit with both military leaders and political leaders to reassure them of our commitments and to seek their insights into the region," he said.

Feedback from the allies, the chairman said, is "important for us to get their insights into the way they see the region evolving, so then we can collaboratively continue to adapt our relationship."

Dempsey travels first to Japan, where he said a topic in the meetings will be Japan's review of its defense guidelines that define the country's defense relationship with the United States.

Discussions in Seoul later this week, the chairman said, will build on previous conversations on transferring wartime control of allied forces, known as operational control, to South Korea, as well as previous talks on integrated air and missile defense, training exercises and response options to North Korean provocations.

"We try to meet with our Korean colleagues about every six months, and that's because there's enough to talk about every six months," Dempsey said. "We'll lay those out, review where we've been, and chart our way forward."

U.S. Military Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific Region

The centerpiece of the visits is the U.S. military's rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, Dempsey said. "Militarily, I think we're actually about where I would expect we would be," he added.

The quality of the exercises and training has increased, and the United States has deployed its most technologically capable equipment in the Pacific area, Dempsey said.

"We've moved ahead with the rotational stationing of Marines and ships," he said. "We're making progress on building an integrated air and missile defense umbrella, [and] both the [South] Koreans and the Japanese have made some commitments in procurements on their side to make us more interoperable."

The chairman said he was generally pleased with the rebalance effort.

"I want to make sure that my actions keep up with my words,” he said. “My words have been that the Asia-Pacific really matters … so I am living up to that by making as many trips as possible.”

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